A hacker crept into the Republican National Committee's Web site early this morning and planted a rambling tirade against Texas Gov. George W. Bush, forcing the site to be temporarily taken off-line on the day when voters are casting their ballots in the presidential election.
The anonymous hacker included a link to the web site of Vice President Al Gore's campaign at the end of the message. According to a mirror image of the hack captured by Attrition.org, a Web site that tracks such incidents, the hacker said his work "has not been sanctioned by a political party or candidate." But he urged readers to vote for the Democratic ticket.
Both www.rnc.org and www.gop.org, which also directs users to the Republican committee's Web site, were impacted. The performance of the GOP site also was affected around noon Eastern Standard Time, when visitors were greeted with a two-sentence text message indicating that it was being restarted.
Keynote Systems Inc., a San Mateo, Calif.-based company that measures Web-site performance, said the Republican site responded to less than 1% of about 1,000 page requests that were made by Keynote's computers around midday. The site's performance was slow for an hour before returning to normal operations at about 12:45 p.m., according to Keynote.
The GOP site is hosted by NextLEC, a Chattanooga, Tenn.-based Internet service provider. Brian May, director of marketing and public relations at NextLec, said the hacked server had been locked down and secured as of this afternoon. He declined to comment further, saying an additional statement would be issued later. It remains unclear whether there will be an official police investigation of the incident.
The hacking method employed was probably a fairly common one, such as Remote Data Service scripting, which lets attackers take control of Web servers, said David Kennedy, director of research at TruSecure Corp., an Internet security consultancy in Reston, Va. The Republican site "was not well run from a security point of view," he added.
The hacker's disjointed message was "nearly as funny as the Republican response," Kennedy said, referring to Republican charges that Democratic Party operatives could be involved in the incident. Far from being a concerted attack by the Democrats, he added, it was probably just a rogue hacker "wanting to cause trouble." And users required a Unix-based Lynx browser to even be able to read the defaced page left by the hacker, Kennedy noted.